Wild Things Run Fast
Geffen XGHS 2019
The logical comparison point for Mitchell's latest is Court and Spark, if only for the tightness of the melodies and the move toward literal lyrics. Also like Court and Spark, it is not so much a step forward as a tying up of loose ends. If there is a progression, Joni has become reconciled to ordinary happiness.
The long, spun-out prose song of Hejira and the jazz influence of her Mingus record have been reconciled admirably. Mitchell says what she has to very literally, and the musical phrases end when you expect them to. The jazz quintet backing her up (with Wayne Shorter on sax) is efficient, a good deal livelier than Tom Scott's group ever was, and it moves easily through the variety of styles.
Gone entirely is the sense of fragility and coyness. Mitchell's singing is immensely confident and versatile, moving easily from the Billy [sic] Holiday torch of Moon at the Window to the beatnik bop of Lieber and Stoller's You're So Square, the soulful You Dream Flat Tires (with Lionel Richie) and the girlish exuberance of Solid Love.
The over-all tone is captured in Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody, a middle aged look back at Mitchell's Saskatchewan girlhood that leads into a beautiful rendition of Hy Caret and Alex North's standard, Unchained Melody. It could have easily have been Paul Anka's My Way.
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